As the Premier League season winds down, the three primary races have begun to solidify. There's a three-way race for the title, a borderline shocking two-team battle for the last Champions League berth and the previously indistinguishable relegation morass has cleared up significantly.
Week 33's results essentially solidified the EPL's haves and have-nots, continuing recent trends in performance. Below is the full table with just five contests remaining for most teams this season:
|11||West Ham United||33||10||7||16||-7||37|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||32||6||14||12||-11||32|
So which performances were the most consequential for the standings? Here's a look at three results that most impacted the three important races.
Everton 3, Arsenal 0
Everton are perennial underdogs every year, sticking with the top-tier teams despite possessing a fraction of the budget. And yet, while the Toffees have rarely ever broken through, they moved within one point of Arsenal with a dominating three-goal victory on Sunday.
As ESPNFC.com's Richard Jolly notes, Everton's stunning rise has been as much due to the creativity of manager Roberto Martinez as any of the players. Martinez switched midfielders Romelu Lukaku and Steven Naismith to switch sides, another example of his ability to maximize his players' strengths:
Everton have got a great identity under Roberto Martinez. Press the ball, counter quickly and, above all, they play as one cohesive unit.— Chris Fleming (@Chris__Fleming) April 6, 2014
Conversely, Arsenal's previously impregnable grasp on a top-four slot is now in serious jeopardy. The Gunners have won just once in their past six Premier League games. The goodwill from a solid Champions League showing against Bayern Munich has largely dissipated as Arsenal supporters realize their side may not have an opportunity to replicate that showing next year.
Though Everton remain a point behind in the table, the Toffees also have a game in hand. Three points were a must for Everton to truly make things interesting, and it appears the fourth-place race could come down to the final weekend.
Liverpool 2, West Ham 1
Liverpool had a tougher time than expected against a spirited West Ham squad, but a pair of penalty goals from Steven Gerrard helped the EPL leaders stave off a tough challenge at Upton Park.
Unlike Arsenal, who have experienced the expected regression after hovering at or near the top of the table all season, the Reds are stubbornly holding onto hopes for an improbable championship. Remarkably, Sunday's victory marked the first triumph without a goal from one of their top scoring aces:
Today is the first time Liverpool have won a Premier League game this season when neither Luis Suarez nor Daniel Sturridge has scored.— Why Always We 19? (@iPrinceMarcus) April 6, 2014
With Manchester City also taking care of business against Southampton, Liverpool face their biggest test of the season at Anfield Park next weekend. The Reds control their own title destiny, and have received a tremendous scheduling break with both their key contests, against City and Chelsea, at home.
Brendan Rodgers' side has been a diverse and well-oiled bunch all season. Though the Reds will need a better showing next week, they have placed themselves in prime position to win the title.
Crystal Palace 3, Cardiff City 0
Perhaps more than any other result, this contest was critical to solidifying the relegation picture. Cardiff could have pulled Crystal Palace right back into dangerous territory, but a devastating defeat likely seals their fate and leaves Tony Pulis' side in the clear.
It's an astounding turnaround for a Crystal Palace side that seemed destined for the Championship League after the early stages of the season. However, since appointing Pulis, the Eagles have actually performed like a top-half quality team:
The Premier League table since Crystal Palace appointed Tony Pulis. Wizardry. pic.twitter.com/LgVsKvMnd8— Matthew Stanger (@MatthewStanger) April 5, 2014
Meanwhile, Cardiff continue their free-fall into near certain relegation, having blown golden opportunities to gain points against West Brom, Aston Villa and Swansea in recent weeks. Among the bottom three teams, last-place Sunderland may actually have the best opportunity to dig themselves free given that they still have 10 league contests remaining.